Thursday, April 30, 2009

Current Giveaways!!!

It has been a couple of weeks since I have posted about some book giveaways so here are a few that are available:

You can win Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland from:
Peeking Between the Pages--Contest ends 5/8.
Booking Mama--Contest ends 5/14.

Here are a couple of chances to win Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts:
A Sea of Books--Contest ends 5/10.
Books and Needlepoint--Contest ends 5/18.
A Bookworm's World--Contest ends 5/19.

You can also win Testimony by Anita Shreve from:
A Circle of Books--Contest ends 5/7.
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time--Contest ends 5/8.
Enroute to Life--Contest ends 5/25
And also from me at Jo-Jo Loves to Read--Contest ends 5/10.

Let's not forget about the contests that are out there for The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson:
A Circle of Books--Contest ends 5/8.
Enroute to Life--Contest ends 5/9.
Books and Needlepoint--Contest ends 5/15.
Find Your Next Book Here--5/19.

Some other contests out there include:
Savvy Verse and Wit and Diary of an Eccentric both have a fabulous Joanna Scott giveaway, the author of Follow Me. You can win a set of 5 of Scott's books--Both contests ends 5/4.
Scattered Leaves by Richard E. Roach from Peeking Between the Pages--Contest ends 5/8.
Tender Graces by Kathryn Magendie from J. Kayes Book Blog--Contest ends 5/30.

Good luck everyone...and just a little heads up that you should stop back here over the weekend for another little surprise!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday-April 29

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

I found a couple of new words while reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini:

Stalactite: (stuh-lak-tahyt, stal-uhk-tahyt) An icicle-shaped mineral deposit, usually calcite or aragonite, hanging from the roof of a cavern, formed from the dripping of mineral-rich water.

Stalagmite: (stuh-lag-mahyt, stal-uhg-mahyt) A conical mineral deposit, usually calcite or aragonite, built up on the floor of a cavern, formed from the dripping of mineral-rich water.

Both of these words were found on page 99 in the following sentence:

He knew the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite, and could tell you that the distance between the earth and the sun was the same as going from Kabul to Ghazni one and a half million times.

So what new words have you learned in your reading adventures this week?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Author Interview: Natasha Mostert, author of Keeper of Light and Dust

I just had the opportunity to review Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert, which I throughly enjoyed! I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Natasha a few interview questions so I could share them here with you at Jo-Jo Loves to Read!!!

So here is what Natasha wanted to share with all of us:

1. What was your inspiration for writing Keeper of Light and Dust?
I've always been fascinated by legends and myths that feature battle-scarred warriors who are protected - or cursed - by beautiful powerful women. It is a sexy concept! I therefore decided that it would be fun to create my own “legend” and I came up with the concept of the Keeper: a modern-day heroine who protects men who are engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

2. Since the main character of this novel is a tattoo artist I am wondering if you have any tattoos yourself? If not, have you thought about getting any tattoos?
I am so tempted! I don't have any tattoos yet, but I certainly haven't ruled anything out. I was thinking it might be cool to have a tattoo for each one of my books tattooed on my spine like a row of charms. Midnight Side would be represented by a snake, Other Side of Silence by the pi symbol, Windwalker by a wolf, Season of the Witch by the Monas Hieroglyphica (an alchemical symbol of a unified universe) and Keeper of Light and Dust by the Kanji symbol for chi! People keep telling me that one day when I'm seventy I will regret it but I think by the time I hit seventy I'll be regretting quite a number of things and tattoos may be the least of them!

3. What kind of research was required of you to write Keeper of Light and Dust?
I had to do research on body art and quantum physics. The one required a lot of reading, the other required hanging out in tattoo parlours. I had fun both ways.

My villain is a brilliant scientist : a chonobiologist and quantum physicist who had cracked the secret of how to gain eternal life. I had to read quite a bit about organ regeneration, Zero Point Field and other related topics so that I could understand the world in which he lives. In the end, of course, I used very little of this information in my novel - after all, my goal is not to educate but to entertain - but I still needed a good grounding before I could start writing.

My other big research effort was in the area of tattoos. Before I wrote Keeper of Light and Dust I knew very little about body art. But I wanted my heroine to be a body artist (it is necessary for the plot) and I therefore talked to tattooists and watched them at work. It is a very textured and colourful environment and I enjoyed learning abut magnum shaders and tattoo lore.

4. Could you explain your writing process to us, including whether you know the ending of your books when you begin?
The idea always comes first for me. My books are research intensive and I will spend months studying and reading. Once I have the topic well in hand, my focus will move to the characters and from that point on they become all important. Even if you write a book with the most interesting themes imaginable, if the reader does not empathize with the characters, the book will fail.

I fall in love with my heroes! I dream about them obsessively (my husband knows all about this and has long since made peace with this state of affairs) and for the eighteen months I write, my characters take over my thoughts. Sometimes I walk down the streets and I look like a crazy woman. My lips are moving because I'm talking to fictitious people who inhabit the pages of my story.

I am not a serendipitous writer. I plan very, very carefully and I always know what the ending will be. My plots are intricate and if I do not plan, I will write myself into a corner. As I write, things do change, however. My characters can be temperamental and will insist on taking off in strange directions! But this is the fun part of writing - when the book starts to buzz and hum and take on a life of its own.

5. Do you attend any workshops or belong to any writing groups that have helped improve your writing skills?
I do not attend workshops and I have never belonged to a writing group. It is not that I have anything against them, it just simply never happened for me.

6. I have heard from several author interviews that the publishing/editing process can be a very humbling experience. What was this experience like for you and do you have any suggestions for aspiring authors to help them deal with this process? Yes, I'm afraid the journey to publication and beyond is a painful process. All aspiring writers know how difficult it is to get that first contract but once your book is accepted the real challenge starts. There are many books that are prepared for publication in-house and they are not all given equal treatment: publishing houses usually place their money and muscle behind their star authors and the rest of the pack has to pretty much find its own way. A common misconception is that once you have a book published, you will always get published. This is not the case: the writing life is deeply precarious. If your books don't sell, you simply won't get your contract renewed. This hard fact keeps you humble, believe me!

The editing process itself can be traumatic. No writer really likes to be edited. You hand in your manuscript after you have slaved over it for two years and you get it back covered in blue pencil with remarks such as “overwrought”, “rambling” and “need rethink”. Show me a writer who likes to hear her baby has a squint or a limp! But the fact of the matter is that all writers benefit from having a good editor. By the time you hand in your manuscript, you are so close to the story that you are blind to its faults. If you have a good editor, it is worth swallowing your wounded pride and paying attention to her. Even though her advice that you should slash Chapter 6 or even remove a character from the plot may at first sound like insanity, there is probably method to her madness.

My advice to aspiring authors: Don't give up and grow a thick skin. And keep your sense of humour. Remember what GK Chesterton said: “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly!”

7. Did you have moments when writing Keeper of Light and Dust that were plagued by writer's block? If so, how did you stay inspired to continue writing?
Block is probably too strong a word - and I am so superstitious I don't even want to say the word out loud. The very idea of being completely blocked terrifies me. I've been lucky so far in that this has never happened to me in the nine years I've been a published author. But yes, I've had periods - quite a few -- where the creative impulse was not as strong and where it felt to me as though everything I write is derivative or sounds downright feeble. One of the way in which I try to get back on track is to reread a favourite book such as Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea or one of Jorge Louis Borge's short stories. They both have angel ears for language and always inspire me. Or else I'll call up my kickboxing instructor and we'll have a good old punch-up in the dojo!

8. From reading some information in the back of your book, I found that you practice some martial arts yourself. How have you integrated your knowledge and discipline from martial arts into your personal life?
Martial arts is all about raising your chi sensitivity - in other words, making sure that the vital energy within you flows cleanly and strongly. I believe in chi and I always feel greatly energized after a session in the dojo. I do full-contact sparring, which means I am trading actual blows and kicks with a partner. Sparring requires absolute focus and attention: there is no room in your mind for anything else. I find that it is only when I'm inside the dojo that I manage to stop the internal chatter inside my head - the white noise that represents everyday stresses and anxieties. After an hour in the dojo and being I completely in the moment, my mind feels spring-cleaned and I'm ready to face anything that may come my way.

9. What are some hobbies that you enjoy during your down time (if you have down time, that is)?
I don't have much down time, sadly. After writing, kickboxing is my one great passion. Music is another great love but I don't see it as a hobby, rather as oxygen.

10. Are you currently working on another book? If so, could you tell us about it?
I am currently doing research on four different ideas. They all have potential for a book but I know that the research will eventually tell me, which one will be my next story. I'll probably start writing in earnest at the end of June when my commitments to promote Keeper of Light and Dust will have died down.

11. What would an ideal "night on the town" in London consist of for you?
I would start off with a walk down the Chelsea Embankment just as dusk is falling. In the summer the sky is this incredibly lavender colour and it becomes magical: in front of you the dark water of the Thames and on the other side of the river the lights starting to glow. I may even want to take a “flight” on the London Eye - the big wheel that sits on the South Bank and gives you the most incredible view of the city and the Houses of Parliament . I would follow this with a meal at my favourite brasserie where they have an open wood oven that makes everything that is prepared in it taste divine. I might then see if I can catch my friend Cengiz at one of his gigs - he has a rock band and is, incidentally, also a great a martial artist. To end the evening I'd go to My Old Dutch on the King's Road and have one of their fantastic late night pancakes!
Hmmm...this makes me think of my personal love for IHOP!

I would like to thank you, Natasha for taking the time to complete this interview and I wish you the best of luck with this book and all future novels that you write!

Don't forget to check out her website and you can also play the Keeper Game while you are there, this will tell you if you are a Keeper, Warrior or a Thief, and even give you an opportunity to win some cool prizes like a Kindle or an Ipod. I completed it and I am categorized as a please let me know what you are if you play the game! You can play the game yourself here. To find out more about Natasha Mostert and view a complete list of her books you can go to her website.

I believe that I am the last stop on this blog tour, but you can view other reviews of Keeper of Light and Dust at the following blogs. The date indicates what day the review was actually posted.
A Novel Menagerie - April 2nd
Literary Escapism – April 7th
The Literate Housewife Review – April 10th
Wrighty’s Reads – April 14th
Peeking Between The Pages – April 17th
Saavy Verse & Wit – April 21st

Thanks for stopping by everyone! You also have an opportunity to win a copy of Keeper of Light and Dust from Serena over at Savvy Verse and Wit--but hurry, because today is the last day to enter!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blog Tour and Review: Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert

First of all I would like to thank Sheri from A Novel Menagerie for inviting me to participate in this mini blog tour. I really did enjoy this book, but I must admit that since it isn't the genre that I usually read, I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. So thank you Sheri, for introducing a new author to me that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Here is a summary of Keeper of Light and Dust from Natasha Mostert's website:

What is the greatest desire of all?

In the death choked corridors of Palermo's famous catacombs, a young man asks this question of himself as he stands surrounded by eight thousand mummified corpses. The answer he gives, will set the course of his life and take him on a journey into the heart of darkness.

Adrian Ashton is a brilliant man: a quantum physicist and chronobiologist who has devoted his life to the study of chi - the vital energy that runs through our bodies. A gifted scientist, he is also a skilled martial artist - and a hunter. Calling himself Dragonfly, he preys on fighters and martial artists who are blessed with a strong life force, draining them of their chi and making it his own. To assist him in his quest, he draws on the knowledge contained in an enigmatic Chinese text written by a legendary Chinese physician in the thirteenth century.

But the hunter becomes the hunted when a mysterious woman enters his life. A martial artist herself, she belongs to a long line of Keepers: women who are warriors, healers and protectors. When Dragonfly targets the man she loves, she sets out to defeat him. It becomes a fight to the death in which love is both the greatest weakness and the biggest prize.

A fast-paced, highly original thriller, Keeper of Light and Dust* blends mysticism with science and explores themes as old as time: the imperative of violence, the redemptive power of love and the greatest desire of all -- to live for ever.

My Review:

First of all I think you should know that although this book is categorized in the 'Thriller' genre, I don't think it had that many scary scenes. There were a couple of opening scenes that were tense and had me thinking that I wouldn't be able to handle it, but I did just fine. I love how this book had a balanced blend of ancient Chinese traditions, mythical elements, martial arts, and even a nice love story.

The main character in this novel is Mia, who happens to be a tattoo artist, and secretly is a 'Keeper' for several martial artists that practice kickboxing on a professional level. A mystery surfaces over a period of time as a few of the boxers that Mia is a Keeper for, unexplainably die from heart problems.

Nick has been Mia's close friend since they were children, and although they always felt a special bond, neither one of them have been able to confront the other to bring their relationship to the next level. They end up growing closer as they spend more time together to try to solve this mystery and prevent another death.

Nick is also a professional kickboxer and Adrian, otherwise known as Ash, shows up just in time to help Nick get in prime shape for his next competition. Ash does develop a strong friendship with both Nick and Mia, but definitely is looking for more than friendship from Mia. Mia senses this from Ash, and for some reason she is strangely attracted to him also, but in a different way that she is attracted to Nick.

I really enjoyed the writing in this book. Here is an excerpt from page 135 that describes the beauty and friendship that Mia is feeling at the time:

It was a summer of beauty and friendship. She wondered if she would remember these days, one day when she was old. Would she look back to when they were all young and confident and energy was flowing strongly through their bodies? And would those memories be vital and glowing or drained by old age? If only one could stop time. Sometimes she'd be training in the dojo surrounded by voices, laughter and movement and the desire to halt time in its tracks would be so strong it took her breath away.

As a Keeper, Mia would often visit a Retreat to perform a ritual to help protect her boxers. I also enjoyed this mythical aspect of the book. I don't want to go into too much detail of this part, but I do want to share a segment from page 184 that I enjoyed:

But as she let the gate swing shut behind her, her heart lifted. Home, she thought as her bare feet followed the mossy path. Home. And as she walked down the moon-ribbed track, she knew there were ghostly footprints underneath her bare feet, unseen markers leading her on, left by Keepers who had entered before her many years in the past. Sometimes she would dream of them: of women with long necks and silver eyes, holding hands through the ages, drawing their dreams together even though the dream they shared and the burden they carried were no longer celebrated or understood.

I do not want to give too much more away about this book, as it is a thriller and I feel that I would ruin the plot if I did so. To find out more about some of the content of the book you can go to Natasha Mostert's website here. I did enjoy this novel and thought that Mostert did a great job of weaving all of the elements together. Thank you Natasha, for providing a copy of your book for review.

My Rating: 4/5

Here is a list of the other blog participants-just click on the link to see what they thought about this book. I suggest that you visit these blogs to check out their reviews also.

A Novel Menagerie
Literary Escapism
The Literate Housewife Review
Wrighty's Reads
Peeking Between the Pages
Savvy Verse and Wit

You may want to check back later today to read my interview with Natasha.

Sunday Salon and Awards Galore!

Well yesterday I did get a lot of housework done, but last night as we were watching movies I started to feel a cold coming on. And sure enough, when I awakened this morning I was nothing but an icky, snotty mess. So needless to say, I sent my family off to church today as I'm staying home trying to keep all of my germs to myself....pretty selfish hey?

Well obviously I am very behind in recognizing the awards that have been bestowed upon me over the last month. These mean so much to me and I thank you all for thinking of me! So here is what I received:

Missy's Book Nook gave me the Let's Be Friends Award!

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.

A Novel Menagerie, Desert Rose Booklogue, and Bella is Reading... have given me the "You Don't Say" Award!

"We give and get awards for having a great blog and being a good friend. What I want to award is those people whose comments have meant THE WORLD to me. It takes time to visit a blog and leave a comment ... I wanted to recognize some special bloggers whose comments have made such an impact on me. The “You Don’t Say?” Award is awarded to these special bloggers in hopes that they will pass the award along to 5-10 of their best commenters!"

Savvy Verse and Wit has given me the Zombie Chicken Award!

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words."

Savvy Verse and Wit and Desert Rose Booklogue both gave me the 2009 Friendly Blogger Award!
Thanks so much ladies... all of these awards have meant so much to me! I won't be passing any of these awards on at this time, mostly because I waited so long to post this that I think all of the blogs that I would have awarded have already received it! If you haven't received one of these awards and you are a regular visitor of my blog, please consider any of these awards bestowed upon you!

Well I guess I don't have much planned for the rest of my Sunday. I'm not feeling so hot and it's dreary and raining outside so I think I'm just going to put a meal in the crock pot and kick back and read for the afternoon. Have a great day everyone!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Journey is Over...Or Just Beginning

I wasn't sure if I actually wanted to post about this or not, but a few of you have sent me emails and left me comments over the last month inquiring about my sister's health. You may have noticed that there hasn't been much activity on my blog over the last week, and that is because Brenda passed away last Wednesday morning. So we actually left home last weekend to drive out to Colorado to go to her memorial service.

It's been a very sad time, but I am so grateful for the time that I got to spend with her earlier this month. Our time together really was like a special gift from God, because when they requested that I go out there at the end of March, we thought she was only going to have about a week to live. When I arrived and saw the condition that she was in I couldn't disagree with that. The doctor put her on a drug that actually stopped her vomiting and her condition really improved at that point, so she started eating everything and anything that sparked her fancy. From the mini Cadbury eggs to Doritos, we were having a fiesta in her room almost every evening! So after the first week I was there I decided to stay another week, because I just wanted to spend as much time with her as I could. During this time her condition was not declining in any way, and her doctor was actually amazed by her.

One thing that is very interesting is that when I arrived at the hospital last month, the doctor told Brenda that they were no longer able to treat her problem. She asked Brenda how long she thought she would have left, and Brenda told her 25 days. Her doctor proceeded to tell her that she hoped she was right, but realistically she would only have about a week left. Well Brenda showed her because she was pretty close to that 25 days, she was off by maybe a day or two at the most.

I was and still am very proud of how Brenda dealt with things towards the end. I know her heart was in such turmoil, mostly about knowing she was leaving her children behind, as any mother in her shoes would be. I think it was especially hard on Brenda since she was nine years old when our mom died, and her daughter had just turned nine years old herself in the beginning of April. I don't know what I would have done in her shoes, but just watching her with her kids sharing special moments together was amazing.

You have all been wonderful through this. I have received comments and emails that have been so supportive and uplifting I just don't even know how to thank you all for these! I've even received some blog awards over the past few weeks that have meant so much to me, that I will definitely try to get posted this weekend.

Brenda's journey on this earth is over, but her eternal journey has just begun. I know that I have a wonderful family and I am thankful for that, but it is also sad that I have to complete the rest of my journey without my sister. But at the same time I am grateful for the times that we have had together.

Thanks again everyone!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Giveaway!! Testimony by Anita Shreve

I want to give a special Thank You to Valerie from Hachette for offering to give away 5 copies of Testimony by Anita Shreve!

Here is a summary of Testimony from Hachette's website:

At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.

Anita Shreve is one of my favorite authors and I can't wait until I have the chance to read this book myself. From previous reviews of this novel, it appears that the content of this book is very controversial and has definitely created a lot of buzz. You can also check out more of Anita Shreve's novels at her website here.

Now for the giveaway!

To enter this contest you must be 18 or older and live in the US or Canada. Will not ship to PO Boxes.
For one entry leave me a comment below.
For an additional entry, link this contest to your blog.Please include your email so I will have a way to contact you if you win.You will have until May 10th to enter and I will draw for a winner on the 11th.

Good luck everyone!

Audiobook Review: The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

Here is a summary of The Darkest Evening of the Year from Dean Koontz website:

Amy Redwing has dedicated her life to the southern California organization she founded to rescue abandoned and endangered golden retrievers. Among dog lovers, she's a legend for the risks she'll take to save an animal from abuse. Among her friends, Amy's heedless devotion is often cause for concern. To widower Brian McCarthy, whose commitment she can't allow herself to return, Amy's behavior is far more puzzling and hides a shattering secret.

No one is surprised when Amy risks her life to save Nickie, nor when she takes the female golden into her home. The bond between Amy and Nickie is immediate and uncanny. Even her two other goldens, Fred and Ethel, recognize Nickie as special, a natural alpha. But the instant joy Nickie brings is shadowed by a series of eerie incidents. An ominous stranger. A mysterious home invasion. And the unmistakable sense that someone is watching Amy's every move and that, whoever it is, he's not alone.

Someone has come back to turn Amy into the desperate, hunted creature she's always been there to save. But now there's no one to save Amy and those she loves. From its breathtaking opening scene to its shocking climax, The Darkest Evening of the Year is Dean Koontz at his finest, a transcendent thriller certain to have readers turning pages until dawn.

My Review:

It's probably been about ten years since I have read a novel by Dean Koontz. I remember that I decided I shouldn't read them any more because they just scared the living daylights out of me. Last week I went to the library to choose a couple of audiobooks for a road trip, keeping in mind that I would have to get something that my husband would also enjoy, and I thought...let's give Koontz a try. I am certainly glad that I did, because he is certainly a talented writer. I was amazed at how he could write a thriller genre novel that was still packed with such beautiful prose. He even tugged at my emotions at such a level that I was in tears at one point of this novel.

I will start off by saying that if you are a dog lover, especially of golden retrievers, you will most likely enjoy this novel. The dogs are a pretty important part of this book, and that is brought to your attention in the very beginning. At the start of the novel it appears that Amy is just an empty-headed dingbat, when in reality she is actually a very intelligent, fun-loving woman that created a dog rescue organization. So when Amy is introduced to us she is actually dragging her boyfriend Brian on a mission to rescue a golden retriever from an abusive home. Amy sees something very special in this golden retriever and knows that she cannot leave this home without it.

There are a couple of parallel story lines that have to do with the pasts of both Brian and Amy's lives. I don't want to go into much detail, as that would take away much from a thriller novel, but both of them were involved with individuals that appeared to be nothing less than psychotic lunatics. Throughout the novel, the actions of these murderous characters will have you sitting on the end of your seat waiting to see what they will do next.

One of the first things that drew me to Koontz's novels was the eerie, unexplainable element that he usually included in his books. Although, I must admit that this same element is probably what scared me away from his novels for so long. But how he wove this part of the story into this book was not scary in any way, it was actually a bit soothing and reassuring and left me with a feeling of happiness.

I am confident that if you are a Dean Koontz fan you will enjoy this book. If you feel like reading a thriller and not having the life scared out of you, this book would probably fit the bill, as I was not really scared while I was listening to it or after I completed it. I think that this book was very well written and I know I will not wait so long before I read, or listen to another of Koontz's novels.

My Rating: In the thriller genre I give this book 4/5.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Finds-April 17

Should Be Reading asks you to share what books you discovered this week that interest you!

It has definitely been awhile since I posted a Friday Find! I first noticed Burnt Shadows by Kamilie Shamsie over at Literary Menagerie well over a month ago. I just haven't had time to post about it, but as I was scanning Library Thing the other day it popped up again. This is one that I definitely want to read!

Here is a summary of Burnt Offerings from the website:

Sweeping in scope and mesmerizing in its evocation of time and place, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of disasters elided and confronted, loyalties offered and repaid, and loves rewarded and betrayed.

August 9, 1945, Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanaka steps out onto her veranda, taking in the view of the terraced slopes leading up to the sky. Wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, she is twenty-one, in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss.

In a split second, the world turns white. In the next, it explodes with the sound of fire and the horror of realization. In the numbing aftermath of a bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost.

In search of new beginnings, Hiroko travels to Delhi two years later. There she walks into the lives of Konrad’s half-sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee, Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu. As the years unravel, new homes replace those left behind and old wars are seamlessly usurped by new conflicts. But the shadows of history - personal, political - are cast over the entwined worlds of the Burtons, Ashrafs, and Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York, and in the novel’s astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound them together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.

Another book that caught my eye quite awhile ago was A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. I first noticed this one over at Booking Mama-you should really check out her review. Books that take place in rural Wisconsin always attract me, since rural Wisconsin is part of my everyday life.

Here is what Algonquin Books has to say about A Reliable Wife:
With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.

And last, but definitely not least, I have found The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham. I've been noticing this book on quite a few blogs now, but I think it was first brought to my attention by Passages to the Past and A Reader's Respite.

Here is a summary of The Traitor's Wife from Susan Higginbotham's website:
In fourteenth-century England, young Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, is delighted with her marriage to Hugh le Despenser and her appointment to Queen Isabella’s household as a lady-in-waiting. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Eleanor’s beloved uncle is not the king the nobles of the land—or his queen—expected.

Hugh’s unbridled ambition and his intimate relationship with Edward arouse widespread resentment, even as Eleanor remains fiercely loyal to her husband and to her king. But loyalty has its price …

Moving from royal palaces to prison cells, from the battlefield to the bedchamber, between hope and despair, treachery and fidelity, hatred and abiding love, The Traitor’s Wife is a tale of an extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times.

So, has anything new caught your eye recently?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday-April 15

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

I found a couple of new words while reading The Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert:

Avaricious: (av-uh-rish-uhs) Immoderately desirous of wealth or gain; greedy.

Avaricious was used in the following sentence on page 133:

Hiro, with his avaricious heart and sleight of hand, carried with him a swarm of dragonflies hidden inside his cloak.

Seppuku: (se-poo-koo) ceremonial suicide by ripping open the abdomen with a dagger or knife: formerly practiced in Japan by members of the warrior class when disgraced or sentenced to death.

Seppuku was used in the following sentence on page 147:

Chilli once told her that hara-kiri literally meant "to cleave the stomach"-to obliterate chi-which was why samarai who committed seppuku had disemboweled themselves by plunging their swords into this zone.

How enlightening is that? So what new words have you learned this week?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-April 14

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

This week my teaser is from The Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert:

"The idea of some muscular monk attacking me with a three-foot-long chopstick did not appeal. And I'm still enough of a squeamish Western quack to want to know that the instruments are properly sterilized."

pg. 126

Monday's Movie-I Could Never Be Your Woman

A Novel Menagerie asks us to post about a movie that you watched the week before. It has been awhile since I have posted this meme, as we haven't had much time at home to watch movies recently, but this last weekend we finally kicked back and watched a couple.

I was in the mood for a light, romantic comedy so we watched I Could Never Be Your Woman:

Here are some of the details from the film:

Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, Saoirse Ronan

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Runtime: 1 hr, 37 mn

MPAA Rating: PG13

Here is a brief summary from the MSN Movie website:

Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless director Amy Heckerling returns to her position behind the camera for the first time in six years with this romantic comedy contrasting the age disparity romance of an older divorcée with the spring butterflies that her daughter experiences upon falling in love for the very first time. An aging professional (Michelle Pfeiffer) with little luck in love has finally found a fitting companion in the form of a much younger man (Paul Rudd). As her relationship threatens to move beyond something simply physical, her adolescent daughter (Saoirse Ronan) begins to wonder if the strange tingling sensation that she feels when she's in the company of a handsome local boy could possibly be the thing grown-ups refer to as "love." Of course anything is possible when Mother Nature (Tracey Ullman) is up to her old mischief, and with higher powers at play there's no telling what will come of the relationships experienced by these two love-starved souls. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

My Movie Thoughts:

I think that Michell Pfeiffer is one of my favorite actresses, so when I noticed that Paul Rudd(you may remember him as Mike from 'Friends') was also in this movie, I figured it would be a winner. Pfieffer is a writer/producer for a Hollywood studio and feels that her age is not giving her the 'edge' in the business world that she used to have. When Rudd auditions for a role on a high school sitcom that she is producing they develop an intimate relationship that they can't deny, even with the ten year age difference between them. As Pfeiffer's new relationship is developing, her teenage daughter is also developing into a woman. During this time her daughter has been blessed by receiving her first period, and she learns the ways of the heart with a young boy that has caught her eye. I think I appreciated the mother-daughter relationship of this movie maybe even a little more than the romance aspect of it. Although it was a cute movie, it probably wasn't the best romantic comedy that I have seen. It did fit the bill for what I was looking for this weekend though.

I rate this movie 3 out of 5 bags of popcorn.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Current Giveaways!!!

Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch seems to be a pretty popular book that you can win from several different blogs. Here are a few of the blogs that you have the opportunity to win this book:

Enroute to Life--Contest ends 4/14.

A Circle of Books--Contest ends 4/14.

At Home With Books--Contest ends 4/14.

Drey's Library--Contest ends 4/19.

Luxury Reading--Contest ends 4/24.

A Bookworm's World--Contest ends 4/25.

Peeking Between the Pages--Contest ends 4/26.

Here are some other contests that you have the chance to enter:

A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy by Tom Buergenthal from Luxury Reading--Contest ends 4/12.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giullia Melucci from Redlady's Reading Room--Contest ends 4/13.

The Turnaround by Georgy Pelecanos from Jenn's Bookshelf--Contest ends 4/18.

Passages to the Past is giving away The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins--Contest ends 4/19.

At Home With Books has a fabulous April Bookshelf Cleaning Giveaway--Contest ends 4/29.

Jantsen's Gift by Pam Cope from Bella is Reading...--Contest ends 4/30.

Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts from So Many Precious Books, So Little Time--Contest ends 5/1.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Birthday!!!

I need to wish a Happy Birthday to my two favorite birthday girls today! It's hard to believe that 18 years ago I was in a hospital bed holding my new baby girl--sigh. Here is a photo that was taken last night of Lindsey(my friend's daughter), and my Vicki (who is now 18).

Lindsey is the gal on the left and is 28 today. She has grown into a very nice young lady and a mother of two beautiful little girls. We are all very proud of you Lindsey--you've come a long way and done very well with your life. I wish you many more Happy Birthday's to come! This photo is with her birthday cake last night.

My daughter Vicki is the gal on the right and she 18 today. She is having her actual party tomorrow so maybe I will post another picture then of her cake. It has been amazing watching you change over the last 18 years Vicki, into such a confident and amazing young lady. I am very proud of who you have become and I definitely look forward to our future together.

It's funny because Lindsey's mom and I are good friends and we just realized last year that the two of us are almost exactly 10 years apart, as Vicki and Lindsey are 10 years apart to the day. Not that it means anything, but it was just one of those odd coincidences.

Enjoy the rest of your Birthday festivities girls!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Lisa See novels? If you are new to my blog you now have the knowledge that she is one of my favorite authors. Lisa See blew me away with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and followed behind that with Peony in Love, which gave us a whole new perspective of Chinese culture and beliefs. I wasn't blogging yet when I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but you can see my review of Peony in Love here.

Here is a summary of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See from her website:

In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, full of great wealth and glamour, home to millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May are having the time of their lives, thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business. Though both wave off authority and traditions, they couldn’t be more different. Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and living the carefree life ... until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth, and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the villages of south China, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the foreign shores of America. In Los Angeles, they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with their stranger husbands, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life, even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules.

At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends, who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection. But like sisters everywhere, they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other but they also know exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other sister the most. Along the way there are terrible sacrifices, impossible choices and one devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel by Lisa See hold fast to who they are – Shanghai girls.

My Review:

Shanghai Girls is an amazing novel that shows the true power of sisterly love. Pearl and May are two sisters that live in Shanghai and are known as Beautiful Girls. Beautiful Girls were known to pose for calendars and various advertisements, and because of their status their company was sought out for entertainment purposes. It was not uncommon for these sisters to return home during the early hours of the morning after an exciting night frequenting night clubs and high-end parties. Since their father provided all of the girl's necessities, they were able to spend their earnings on more of the glamorous and westernized fashions and comforts.

Pearl and May's carefree lifestyle comes to an abrupt end when they learn of their father's promise to sell them as brides to settle his large gambling debts. This, along with the Japanese invading the country, sets a new string of events in action. When the girls defy their new father-in-law by not meeting them at the ship that is to take them to the United States, it just makes their current situation worse. They find themselves stranded in a country that is war-tattered and wishing they would have left the country when they had the opportunity. Now they must reach into the depths of their souls for the strength to continue a journey that will take them far from their beloved China.

After a grueling journey across the ocean they arrive in Los Angeles only to undergo months of interrogation before being allowed to reunite with their arranged husbands. Although they didn't love their husbands when they met them, the girls knew that they were their only opportunity to be able to remain in the United States. They accepted their fate and embraced their futures by becoming active members of the Louie family. It was a hard life, especially with their father-in-law always ordering them as to what they would do, where they would work, and taking most of the money they earned, but they did what was necessary to preserve their futures.

The interrogations were an interesting part of this novel. The time period runs from 1930 to 1957 and the sisters were interrogated in the beginning when arriving at Los Angeles, and then again toward the end of the novel, for being suspected of communism. It really was sad to see how these people were mistreated during these times.

I loved how this novel gave us a mixture of both ancient Chinese culture and a more modern view. May and Pearl's mother had bound feet but the sisters were obviously born after footbinding was no longer required. There were also some visible differences between the cultural death rituals, which would be more obvious if you had read Peony in Love. Here is an excerpt from page 182 that describes the desire for traditions:

She's grabbed on to old traditions-outdated traditions-in the same way I latch on to them now: as a means of soul survival, as a way to hang on to ghost memories. Perhaps it's better to treat a cough with winter melon tea than by putting a mustard plaster on your chest. Yes, her way-back stories and her old ways are sinking into me, changing me, instilling more "Chinese" into me, as surely as the flavor of ginger seeps into soup.

To me this novel was about first love, new loves, sacrifices, secrets, and forgiveness, but most of all the undying sisterly love that is so visibile between May and Pearl. Here is an excerpt from page 202 that was a good example of their lives together:

May and I are sisters. We'll always fight, but we'll always make up as well. That's what sisters do: we argue, we point out each other's frailties, mistakes, and bad judgement, we flash the insecurites we've had since childhood, and then we come back together. Until next time.

May and Pearl were on a continual journey of finding a home in China to creating a new home in the United States. As the book ends Lisa See creates a new journey that they must begin together. See provided so much historical information from this time period that I now have a better understanding of the different Chinese languages that were used, the Chinese army, and the interrogations that the Chinese people had to endure. I thorougly enjoyed this book and want to give a special thank you to Debbie from The Random House Publishing Group. This book will be available in store on May 26, 2009.

My Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday-April 8

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

The new words that I found were from the ARC of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.

Cheongsams: [chawng-sahm] a form-fitting, knee-length dress with a mandarin collar and slit skirt, worn chiefly by Oriental women.

Karst: [kahrst] an area of limestone terrane characterized by sinks, ravines, and underground streams.

These words were actually in the same sentence on page 153 from the ARC edition:

Instead of beautiful girls reclining in their budoirs, sending a feeling of ease, relaxation, and eroticism, the artists have chosen to paint uninspired landscapes of the Great Wall, the sacred mountain of Emei, the mystical karsts of Kweilin, or insipid looking women wearing cheongsams made from shiny cloth in geometric patterns and sitting in poses meant to convey the virtues of moral rearmament.

So what new words have you found this last week?

Teaser Tuesday-April 7

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.>

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

This week my teaser is from Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert:

Oh, no. Sighing, Mia stood up and nodded at the tall, expensively dressed woman who was watching her critically.

pg 38

Monday, April 6, 2009

Winner of This Side of Heaven by Karen Kingsbury!

Well I finally have a winner for This Side of Heaven by Karen Kingsbury...........Congratulations to Becky! I will be contacting you soon to get your mailing information so the publisher can mail this book directly to you.

I would like to give a special Thank You toMiriam from Hachette Book Group for offering to give this book away on my blog!

Thanks for entering everyone!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review: The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik

Here is a summary of the View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik from the Random House website:

When teenage hockey player Joe Andreson and his widowed mother move to Minneapolis, Joe falls under the seductive spell of Kristi Casey, Ole Bull High’s libidinous head cheerleader. Joe balances Kristi’s lustful manipulation with the down-to-earth companionship of his smart, platonic girlfriend, Darva. But it is Kristi who will prove to be a temptation (and torment) throughout Joe’s life.

Years later, Joe can’t believe that life has deposited him in the aisles of Haugland Foods. But he soon learns that being a grocer is like being the mayor of a small town: His constituents confide astonishing things and always appreciate Joe’s generous dispensing of the milk of human kindness. The path Kristi has charged down, on the other hand, is as wild as Joe’s is tame. But who has really risked more? Who has lived more? And who is truly happy? As Joe discovers, sometimes people are lucky enough to be standing in the one place where the view of the world is breathtaking, if only they’ll open their eyes to all there is to see.

My Review:

I will start off by saying that Lorna Landvik is an author that really holds a special place in my heart. Her book, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, really was the inspiration for the start of the Sweet Connections book club that has been meeting for almost five years now. The View from Mount Joy is the first book that I have read by Lorna that is narrated from a male perspective and I really think she did a good job. Considering that the book starts out by going inside the mind of a teenage boy, somewhere I really haven't wanted to be before, really set the stage for this novel.

Joe is a hockey player and the new kid in a Minneapolis school. Kristi just happens to be the head cheerleader that is dating the captain of the hockey team, so she gets blown into Joe's life by the friends that they share. And boy, is this girl something! Although Joe and Kristi do share an odd relationship, I think his closest high school friendship is made with a girl named Darva. Their friendship does remain intact and actually blossoms several years after their high school career is completed.

This novel does take you through Joe's entire life--as he completes his college career at the University of Minnestoa, takes over ownership of a local grocery store, and eventually starts his own family. As Joe attends college he starts out by participating on the hockey team. After a couple of injuries he realizes his mortality and admits his fear to himself. I really enjoyed this part of the book, as young men can appear to be macho and fearless, because Joe actually gave up playing hockey because of his fears.

When Joe is given the opportunity to take over the grocery store, at first he is apprehensive. His long-term dreams definitely did not involve running a grocery store! His management skills and creativity really start to make a name for himself though. His store becomes one of the most popular markets around as he enjoys making up little contests for his customers that award prizes that he knows they need. As an example, he knew one of his lady customers has been very stressed lately and in need of some TLC. Joe thought up a contest that he knew only she would win, so she would win a certificate to Patty Jane's House of Curl(which by the way is the title of one of Lorna's previous books). He really developed into his position and made the business quite successful.

Throughout Joe's life Kristi would blow in and out like a tornado. Joe and his friends become shocked as they get older to learn that Kristi has become a television evangelist. Knowing how she had acted during high school, and the few times that he had seen her since, the career choice did not fit the Kristi that he knew. As these parts of Kristi were put in the later half of the book, I couldn't help but think that she reminded me of Tammy Baker.

I enjoyed watching Joe mature from a wild teenager into a very well respected family and business man. I think that you should be forewarned that the beginning of this novel does contain some sexual content that some of you may find offensive. As I was reading those parts, I just kept in mind that the story was being told from the view of a teenage boy.

I have really enjoyed Lorna's novels and you can find out more about her books by going to her website. Most of her novels take place in Minnesota, which I have alway enjoyed because she writes about places that I know or have actually been to, since I live in Northern Wisconsin. Our book club actually met Wednesday night to discuss this book, but unfortunately I was unable to attend. I am looking forward to see how the other ladies like this one.

My Rating: 4/5